Just Deserts

Can I share with you a thing that makes me profoundly uncomfortable?

I find most every usage of the word “deserve” disagreeable.  It’s one of those words, like freedom or right, that people all too often throw around without any consideration for the word itself, what it means, what using it implies.

"And here's the problem with justice: justice is that which is appropriate. So if you mete out justice, you are giving the appropriate amount of appropriateness, and then you drown in a vortex of tautology."

“And here’s the problem with justice: justice is that which is appropriate. So if you mete out justice, you are giving the appropriate amount of appropriateness, and then you drown in a vortex of tautology.”

There’s the touchy-feely stuff that sounds like it came from Nicholas Sparks or some Top 40 song:
Everyone deserves to be adored
Everyone deserves at least one summer of love
Everyone deserves a break from heartache
Everyone deserves to be called beautiful
Everyone deserves a childhood
Everyone deserves a broken heart
Everyone deserves a happily ever after
You deserve a good man/a guy who does X for you/a real man

There are the ads:
Everyone deserves a break
Everyone deserves a car
You deserve a vacation
You deserve a better vacation
You deserve a donut
You deserve a ferrari and a matching tiara

There are the taglines of advocates for one flavor or other of Social Justice:Everyone Deserves
Everyone deserves a house
Everyone deserves a new beginning
Everyone deserves a fifth birthday
Everyone deserves health care
Everyone deserves the right to have a child
Everyone deserves a clean slate
Everyone deserves clean water
Everyone deserves college education
Everyone deserves healthy teeth
Everyone deserves quality food

There’s the stuff that I’m not inclined to argue with, because it’s too much work to argue against baked goods and beauty:
Everyone deserves art
Everyone deserves a cake
Everyone deserves a coffee
Everyone deserves a cookie

Okay, so...guess not everyone agrees with this

Okay, so…guess not everyone agrees with this

Everyone deserves music
Everyone deserves a teddy bear
You deserve a whole enchilada
I deserve a capella
I deserve Aeneas

There are examples that are just flat-out wrong:
Everyone deserves an award
Everyone deserves a standing ovation
Everyone deserves a perfect world

There are the very few examples that strike me as true:
Everyone deserves life
Everyone deserves a fair trial/due process
Everyone deserves justice
Everyone deserves to know the truth
Everyone deserves rights
I deserve carpal tunnel syndrome


There are the ones that straddle the line between “social activism” and “bad theology”:
Everyone deserves compassion
Everyone deserves forgiveness
Everyone deserves grace
Everyone deserves a good life
Everyone deserves happiness
Everyone deserves kindness
Everyone deserves love
Everyone deserves an opportunity
Everyone deserves redemption
Everyone deserves somebody
Everyone deserves somebody to love

Having grown up with a pretty steady supply of both Law and Gospel, I am convinced that everyone deserves temporal and eternal punishment.  “Justice is getting what you deserve; mercy is not getting what you deserve; grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve.”

If forgiveness or compassion or grace are deserved, then I wonder at them being called forgiveness, compassion, and grace.  Etc.  The beauty of these things is receiving them despite one’s utter lack of claim.  Who, besides God, can claim anyone’s love because it was deserved?  And who besides Him would be satisfied to receive it for that reason?



Also uncomfortable: people saying “just desserts” without making some kind of pudding-centric pun.  This is not about appropriate puddings!

9 thoughts on “Just Deserts

  1. Who in the world has ever claimed that he/she deserves Aeneas? (Other than Dido. And really that was her silly sister’s fault.)

    • I wondered the same thing! It’s what Autocomplete filled in when I typed “I deserve a e” – possibly some kind of subtle Googlian criticism of not using the proper indefinite article with a vowel?

      It doesn’t seem to be an actual line that appears on any page, though. Perhaps I need to rethink my Googling protocol…

  2. “I find most every usage of the word “deserve” disagreeable.”
    Well said. You are definitely not alone. It’s everywhere, and so utterly thoughtless!

    Just last night I was watching a show on Hulu and a commercial for cat litter came on. It basically said “Your cat is intelligent, and therefore it deserves the best cat littler!” …I stared at the screen, slack-jawed, then came the wave of frustration. I doubt the advertisers have any clue what they are saying or implying, but it sounds like a theme for a dystopian novel if ever I heard one. Intelligence dictates what one deserves. Only that pudding gif can console me.

  3. Pingback: I’m Thankful For … Well, Not Facebook, As It Turns Out | Em Speaks

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